2002 Gold Pen award winner for Best Christian Fiction
Marley Shepherd should be on top of the world--she's a lawyer at a prestigious law firm and engaged to marry the crown prince of Atlanta black society. But soon she begins to see that her life--and her fianc�--are not as perfect as she thought. Marley seeks comfort in her mother and grandmother, but they are too consumed with anger at each other, and too blinded by their past, to save Marley from the disaster that will turn her life--and theirs--upside down. Then Marley has a spiritual awakening . .
Ellis's heartfelt but predictable debut follows 31-year-old Marley Shepherd, a Spelman graduate and attorney with a major Atlanta law firm, who is about to marry Gerrard Shore, the favorite son of one of the city's prominent developers. Atlanta's black elite believes that Gerrard, who also works in real estate development, is quite a catch, and their parents toast the handsome pair as "the couple of the century." Yet Marley is plagued with doubts about Gerrard, who calls her "my earth" but spends very little time with her, saying that business comes first. These doubts are echoed by her down-to-earth friend, Ashley, a kindergarten teacher, and her wise, no-nonsense grandmother, Ma Grand. Marley, haunted by her own parents' divorce, fears a loveless marriage but feels paralyzed-part of her is still swooning over Gerrard like a schoolgirl, and besides, the wedding means so much to her striving mother. Marley's faith in Gerrard, in herself and in God is tested by her mother's diagnosis of cancer and by her friendship with Lazarus Jacobs, rising businessman and member of Gilead's Balm Church. Readers will be able to see the moral coming from miles-or hundreds of pages-away, and the novel is further marred by stock characters and some stilted dialogue (says Ashley of her students, "It's such a mutually beneficial relationship because I get to teach them what they need to know and their innocent little spirits lighten my heart"). Ellis writes with warmth and earnestness, however, and readers will identify with Marley's dilemma. Those willing to indulge the novel's artistic shortcomings will find a strong affirmation of religious faith, simplicity and sincerity.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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July 30, 2007
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Excerpt from That Faith, That Trust, That Love by Jamellah Ellis
Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?
Some would say the ending was hard to believe, considering the way it had begun.
The breeze, faint against the warm thickness the sun had cast, gently ruffled the blossoms on the dogwood trees. The scent of lilac and eucalyptus drifted through the air. Butterflies and bees alike visited vibrant May blooms and made their acquaintance. On the lush grounds at Stone Mountain Manor, waiters decked in starched white shirts and black pants scurried about, passing stuffed mushrooms and ch�vre filo cups and refilling crystal flutes. Sounds from the Macon Peach Jazz Band wafted through the air like the smell of a low country boil on a stove top in Savannah. And, of course, black folk were talking.
Gathered around over by the tulip beds, next to the stationary hors d'oeuvres, or seated at the forty white linen-covered tables, black folk were talking about how the Shores had once again upped the ante on how a first-rate celebration should be done. And they were talking about the Shores' only son, Gerrard, and his fianc�e, Marley. About what a fine boy Gerrard had grown up to be--"fine" having different meanings depending on the gender and age of the particular group doing the talking. And about how his fianc�e was both beautiful and outgoing (or stuck-up and pretentious, again depending on the circle that was talking). Theirs would be the wedding of the year, for sure, but for today folk were plain happy and counted it a privilege to have been invited to the engagement party.
They studied, measured, and savored every move the couple made. When the couple wasn't moving but just standing and chatting, the guests soaked that in, too. Gerrard, tall and strapping, was a younger version of his father. His eyelashes, stark against his honey-colored skin, looked as if they'd been hand-dipped in calligraphers' ink. His smile willed you to forget about your bad mood. He strode as if the wind were watching, awaiting his command, pacing itself to follow him. The wind obliged him, until it ran into Marley and stopped. Not on account of her shapely figure, her long, thick hair, or her ample lower lip--traits that came a dime a dozen among the women of Atlanta. Consensus was that it was the mark. That beauty mark, smack dab in the middle of her eyebrows, held court on its own. It seemed, simply, subtly, to say, "Stop." And so eyes, smiles, thoughts, and even the wind obeyed.
Marley's grandmother surveyed the scene, her large, wise eyes sizing up all the characters. "There's got to be more than two hundred people here," Ma Grand said. "Maybe three hundred."
"Probably so," said Pam, Marley's mother, her eyes twinkling with joy at the thought. She tossed her sandy brown hair out of her face and leaned forward in her seat as if she were watching her favorite movie. Pam had just finished making the rounds, greeting the guests, and her feet were aching from all the walking she had done in her open-toed satin-strapped heels.
"Good Lord, Pam, that's nothing to be impressed with! It's a shame before God!" Ma Grand leaned back in her seat and squeezed her thighs together, mainly out of habit--she mostly wore pants these days. Even when she did wear skirts, she made sure they were long enough that she didn't need to worry whether or not her legs were closed.
"Mama, please. Let's just sit here and have a good time. No criticisms, no complaints. Just peace and happiness, okay?" Pam turned her head away quick enough to catch the socially correct smiles from Atlanta's mayor and his wife as they strolled by Pam's table. Following immediately behind them were the presidents of Spelman and Morehouse colleges, managing well the task of chatting while munching discreetly on crab cake medallions. Pam returned their polite smiles, crossed her legs, and fought the urge to squeal in delight.
"What they grinning 'bout?" Ma Grand snapped and cut her eyes at the backs of Mayor and Mrs. Stockton. "Ain't done nothing for the city since he's been elected, except socialize and support his wife's shopping habit. These politicians ain't worth the suits they're wearing. Atlanta ain't been right since Reverend King died."
"Mama, really. Please stop, will you? We're here to celebrate Marley's engagement, not to assassinate the character of every person that passes by our table."
"Why do all these fancy schmancies have to be here in the first place? Is this an engagement party or an inaugural ball? You'd think somebody was campaigning for office or something!" Ma Grand rolled her eyes at no one in particular and shifted her weight in her seat.